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I fell in love with the dark room

Yesterday was my first time in a darkroom. 

Why have I never done it before?! It was an epiphany.

There’s a quality of sensuality, mystery, alchemy, materiality, metaphysics in it. If I had to resume it into one word, it would be “magic”.

It was like making love for the first time, only it was much better (for mischievous readers, I said “first time”). 

In the afternoon, I went with my friend Alexandre to see “Approche”, a fair specialising in experimental photography. I saw photographic images and objects that I didn’t think were physically possible. Images made without a camera, images printed onto 3dimensional objects, plaster and cement, images appearing out of metal, photographic installations…It blew my mind. 

Thomas Paquet - Optycal Vigetting #1, 2023 (work in progress) C-Print

Laure Winants - Ice impressions, 2023 Departement de Glaciologie de UNIS, Svalbard and ULB, Belgium

Marguerite Bornhauser - photographic installation

Tomas Amorim - Monticolœ, 2023 - Emulsion chlorobromure d'argent sur laque de ciment blanc

That’s when Alexandre said: “Do you want to go play in my darkroom”?

Although we don’t know each other that well, and the interpretation of his proposal could have gone terribly wrong, I accepted without hesitation.

It was an actual dark room. A tiny, home-made dark room on a Parisian rooftop.

We started out by developing some of his photographs. 

After showing me the technique step by step, Alexandre let me take the driver’s seat and print my first image. 

It was a multi-sensorial experience. The smell of the chemicals, the unreal atmosphere generated by the dim red light, the elegance and apparent simplicity of the instruments, the texture of the grain in focus reminding me of skin pores…It felt like being backstage at an illusionism spectacle. With the difference that the magic is real. 

Seeing an image appear out of nowhere is like witnessing birth; it gave me a rush of adrenaline and endorphin. I bet that even the most experienced printer still feels the thrill of unknown expectation. You can master the technique, but something magical will always get away in the manifestation of an image. It’s a balance of perfect skills and acceptance of not being entirely in control of the outcome. 

I wanted to try a technique we saw at “Approche” - the artwork by Thomas Paquet that inspired me was stunning - a work about pure colour and light, made without using a camera. 

We were working in black and white, focusing on light and shadow. 

And it happened, it worked, before my eyes. 

I created an image with my hands - light became matter, paint, material. I’ve never felt more like a painter in my whole life. A lifetime searching for 20 seconds of magic making. 

Then, the big reveal. When I placed the paper into the developing liquid, something manifested. Something that didn’t exist before. Something coming from somewhere else. I think it was one of the purest acts of creations I’ve ever witnessed, and I was part of it!

Martina Margaux - my first draft photogram

Now I can’t stop thinking about it. A whole new world opened up to me and I intend to find ways to explore it and be explored, to deconstruct and relearn what I know about photography and artmaking, to test and test again until I can just forget myself in the medium. 

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